A balanced diet, please.

Newspaper stands, talk shows, billboards are plastered with ways to get thin from skipping meals to eating pounds of meat per day. Diet fads come and go along with the pounds they promised. When it comes down to the line, the end goal is health. If an individual is healthy they can contribute to society, enrich the lives of others, and live a good life. Nutrition isn’t all about what to avoid, it’s also about eating recommended amounts of vitamins, carbohydrates, protein, fats, and minerals. Public Health is about having a healthy diet.

Healthy People 2010 has 2 main goals: eliminate health disparities and increase healthy years of living. There are many ways to achieve these goals as broken down in their paper. Eating a balanced diet can help achieve these main goals. As certain nutrients are consumed, they can prevent against diseases, lower risk factors, and give the body the strength to fight off bacteria and viruses. With each day, we can all make small adjustments in our diets to align our food consumption to those recommendations put forth by the USDA. Through these small adjustments, we in turn can lead healthier lives.

I want the multi-vitamin, please.

My body smiles when I say vitamins. Our body needs vitamins and mineral to keep it healthy; Vitamin C helps our immune system, anti-oxidants bind to harmful free-radicals, and Vitamin A may be absorbed by the retina to improve eye sight. Vitamin supplements are readily available and can used to ensure that your body gets the recommended daily amounts. However, it’s important to note if you are already consuming recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals a supplement is not needed. There are no shown benefits for consuming more than the recommend amounts. Many times, excess vitamin nutrient that the body doesn’t need or can’t absorbed will go to waste. In rare cases, such as pregnant women, an overdose of Vitamin A can lead to birth defects. Consult your doctor before starting a daily vitamin to ensure it meets your need.

We hear of the importance of consuming certain vitamins but what do they actually do? Here is a breakdown of the different vitamins and their benefits to the body. Vitamin A can help eyesight. Vitamin B can increase metabolism. Vitamin D can help strengthen your immune system, control calcium balance, and lower hypertension. Vitamin E is an anti-inflammatory helper. Folic Acid helps pregnant women’s fetus to not develop birth defects. You can see the importance of consuming required amounts of vitamins and minerals because of the effect they have on the body and the benefits they offer.

Below is a chart of vitamins and minerals with the required daily amounts for your body.

“No processed foods, please”- your stomach

Once-in-awhile, we all crave and consume processed foods. Processed foods are quick, easy, and cheap. They are readily available and taste delicious. There is one main problem: they are NOT nutritious. Many chemicals and preservatives like sodium have been added while many nutrients have been removed. It’s important to look at the amount of preservatives, like sodium, contained in a product because you can easily consume over five times your daily allowance in one item alone. Processed meats can be the worst of processed foods. Processed meats have high levels of cholesterol and can increase your risk of colorectal, kidney and stomach cancer.

Yes, processed food are easy but they are full of empty calories. Through the process of preparing and packaging many ingredients, the nutritious ones, are lost including Vitamin C, fiber, and minerals. These ingredients are important to include in your daily food consumption because of their effect on your body. If you are going to consume processed foods, you should find other ways to get your nutrients. This can be done by adding fresh vegetables to your canned soup, using whole grain bread to eat with your soups or canned meats, and adding fruits to any meal. Remember, it’s important to get your daily body needs of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals but it is also important to get them within your allotted calorie amount to keep your body in top physical condition.

Whole, not muli-grain please.

The food guide recommendation includes consuming whole grains. How do  whole grains and multi-grains differ you ask? Whole grain consists of the entire intact caryopsis which still has the principal anatomical component. In other words, for the most part, whole grains haven’t been processed and still contain most of the nutrients. This is important because the nutrients from whole grain include fiber, which can help lower the risk of colon cancer and keeps your digestion-track regular. It also lowers LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels which both contribute to heart disease. In studies, it has been shown that consumption of whole grains can lower your coronary heart disease risk by 26%. Whole grains have a lower glycemic level which lowers the  risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes. Multi- grains are not necessarily whole grains and you should check the list of ingredients. Multi-grain breads and products usually contain less fiber and are higher on the glycemic index. Multi-grains have also been processed and had nutrients removed.

Breads, rice, and other products label themselves as multi-grain or whole wheat. It’s important to check the label because products may contain some whole grains but the product, as a whole, is mostly composed of other refined ingredients. Carmel coloring is a commonly used to give the look of a whole grain product. Carmel coloring comes from an additive like molasses.  It’s important to remember that multi-grains aren’t bad, but that whole grains have more nutritious ingredients and have been shown to improve overall physical health.

Mmm… Sweets, Please

Naturally our bodies, at times, crave specific food. A common craving is sweet food. Sweets are mostly simple carbohydrates. Simple carbs prompt the brain to secrete serotonin; serotonin is a calming hormone that can ease both stress and depression. It is why during crunch time, many turn to a candy bar, chocolate, and baked goods. Interestingly enough, the most prescribed antidepressants alter serotonin levels in the body. 

At times, we all need the calming benefits serotonin offers. It’s important to remember there are many different sources that can alter serotonin levels. We reach for sweet foods or carbs most commonly. However, there is an inevitable crash after our blood sugar falls. One way to prevent against this is to go for complex carbohydrates instead of simple carbohydrates. Good complex carbs to use are whole-grain bread, chickpeas, and lentils. These foods are lower in calories, offer other health benefits, and also promote the brain to secrete serotonin. By choosing different option, you goals can be reach and you can be a healthier consumer. 

Will you pass the salt, please?

If you were a true friend, you wouldn’t. America is a nation of salt lovers we salt anything from apples to edamame, from packaged food to frosting. It’s literally already in our blood and we should keep sodium levels low.

New York started the trend with trans fat regulations and now it’s spread to sodium. If salt tastes so good, why is it so bad? It’s not all bad, we need sodium to restore electrolytes after an intense workout. However, consuming high amounts of sodium has been linked as a risk factor for high blood pressure, heartburn, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, left ventricular hypertrophy, gastric ulcers, and potentially death. It’s important to be educated on the consumption of salt to increase healthy years of living. As we evaluate the foods we consume it’s important to remember that our daily consumption of sodium should be between 500-1,000 mg.

The chart below shows the sodium content of common sauces that we use on our foods.

I want a snack, please.

Snacking is an American way of life. Many have stashes of snack food in drawers at work, secrete places in the bedroom, and in the freezer right above the frostbitten frozen vegetables purchased 3 months ago in an attempt to eat more healthy. I’m a sucker for sweets just like the next but by making healthier choices, calories can decrease, vitamins can increase, and feelings of more energy can come.

Below is a chart of healthy snacks along with the nutritional values.

Here are also some other healthy choices:

Raw Almonds. 139 calories/serving

Raw Mixed Nuts. 178 calories/ serving 

Dried Fruit. 97 calories/ serving

Mandarin. 95 calories/ serving

Apple. 96 calories/ serving

Banana. 105 calories/ serving

Grapes. 148 calories/ serving

Tuna. 99 calories/ serving

Dried Peas. 72 calories/ serving

Popcorn air-popped. 62 calories/ serving

Baby Carrots. 60 calories/ serving

Celery & Hummus. 108 calories/ serving

Cherry Tomatoes. 27 calories/ serving

Whole-grain Crispbread with Cottage Cheese. 70 calories/ serving

Bean Salad. 90 calories/ serving
  There are many different options available to those seeking to make small habits in eating in order to increase health. Schools around the United States are seeking to ensure healthy snack options to students at school. Also, through these small changes we each make in our eating habits, we can increase our daily nutrition and consume the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals. I